Wednesday, 27 December 2017

A Break from the Festivities

Rain, just about sums up the kind of weather we had on Christmas day. It seemed that whoever is in charge of Christmas was running behind schedule as, on Boxing day, we woke up to about three inches of snow. Missy loves snow. So I feel like we did get out in the end for a lovely walk, even if it was a day late! (Queue snow photos for the rest of the blog!)

This year the hubby and I put our foot down and said that no, we didn't want to go visiting, we weren't going to be glorified taxis and we certainly were not hosting. Finally, on the year of our tenth Christmas together, we got to have it to ourselves, just us and Missy. I do enjoy seeing people on the day, but I will confess that to just wake up and gently trundle through the morning without panicking about picking people up for set times or that all the presents had been rounded up and were in the car, was pure bliss.

It's that weird part of the festive season for me - it being the three 'normal' days between Christmas and New Year. Its business as usual in the household as both myself and the hubby are back to work and I will admit to enjoying the shorter commute. Still, with another four day weekend around the corner, its tough to keep your head in the game and keep on top of work, the house and chores. We had our 'resolutions' conversations last night and I think I know what I want to do. Last year I made an effort to see friends and family more, and to ensure that the time spent wasn't just doing jobs for other people, but actually socialising.

So next year? Well, I begin a new job at the end of January. I want to use that as a chance to break bad habits, and to start taking better care of myself physically and mentally. I think it'll be tough to make myself take time out just to relax - there always seems more jobs needing doing, but I think it will be good for me to stop fretting, at least for five minutes. 

We'll have to wait and see how it goes. I've told Missy her resolution is to stay out of trouble (she did well this year, only one big vet bill), but I can tell from that little glint in her eye that her ambition to annihilate the grey squirrel population is still at the forefront of her mind...

Wishing you all a Happy New Year, and all the best for 2018!

Monday, 18 December 2017

Teepees and Christmas Cards

Just a short post today - knowing that this time next week it will all be over has put me in a panic. There's been lots of baking and all the little odds-and-ends jobs that are so easy to neglect have suddenly come to my attention. So this week has been spent mostly double checking presents, wrapping the last few pieces and writing out the Christmas cards.

Missy 'helping' with the cards
There's been a lot of craft work over the last few weeks - the cat re homing place we got Ziggy from for my sister were looking for some winter donations so I put together some cat quilts. And then I had to make Missy some quilts so she wouldn't feel left out! Hers are the bottom two:

I am particularly pleased with the Monster High one, I will confess! The other big project for Missy has been a tee-pee! Now, let me explain before you automatically label me a crazy dog lady, as Missy was a stray, she cannot be left alone with access to the bins, so she has her bed in the hall under the stairs (like a little Harry Potter doggy, but with way more space!). 
We do try every so often giving her the living room, but she just cant help herself and after a few days of lulling us into a false sense of security will just decimate the bins. And I mean decimate - rubbish will be strewn throughout the ground floor of the house, its like she knows she's going to get into trouble so just goes daft. The worst one was the icing sugar. Icing sugar has a magical property whereby an empty bag can make it look like its been snowing in my living room and turn a black dog completely white. That was when she broke me, it was too funny to be cross, but it took hours to clean fully...
But I digress. It basically boils down to the fact that my kitchen door is one of these silly folding doors, and as the style is no longer made, I am not buying 5 new doors just to replace it. So Missy has the hall and access to a nice sunny spot on the stairs when the weather is nice. I've always had a curtain over her 'bedroom' to keep it warm at night and, with the -12C we had last week, noticed she was actually pulling the curtains into her bed and curling up in them.
I will not have a cold doggy! So, with the aid of this tutorial and some very rusty math skills in order to scale the whole thing up to make one large enough for Missy, I present to you, her tee-pee!

And one with her just chilling out inside:

It did take a small bit of bribery to try it out, but once she realised her bed was there and that this was her new 'room', Missy has taken to it really well. She seems to have figured out how to open the flaps herself to cool it down during the warmer nights and also how to close it up herself and, when she's had enough of all the cheesy Christmas songs, has been putting going there of her own free will to chill out.

I have also realised its plenty big enough to be a photo prop for my smallest niece and nephew - I'm thinking of having them as Tiger Lilly and one of the lost boys, and for Missy, well, she'll have to be Peter Pan! Perhaps if they visit in the summer...

I'm hoping to get another post in before Christmas, but if not, have an awesome day however you chose to celebrate it!

Sunday, 10 December 2017

Cramond Island

Apologies for the delay - I've had the in-laws visiting this week and its been a bit more chaotic than usual. Missy was pleased to have her uncle Flash visiting, although he is getting rather old and grumpy - at -8C today, I cant blame him for not wanting to play.

Yesterday was the only day we could all manage to go out together, so we decided to go for a walk over to Cramond Island. Locally it is well known as you can walk over the causeway at low tide and easily access the 1/3mile long island and it had strategic importance in both the World Wars - most obviously seen by the large concrete anti-boat booms.

It was a cold day, but clear and crisp. Both the dogs enjoyed getting in everyone's way and stopping for cuddles from every passerby and the humans of the group argued over whether we could see sand pipers or dunlins and everyone agreed on the oyster catchers. Its about a mile long walk to get to the island, and we were very aware of crossing times, as its easy to be caught out by the incoming tide and get stranded. 
We also all agreed on the heron!
We made our way to the highest point of the island where we got a good view of all the bridges (with three now at the same point, its rather unmissable!). All the signs have been removed, so we're assuming that they are getting updated to include the new crossing. The MIL was anxious not to get caught out by the tide (I perhaps should have saved my story about a friend-of-a-friend who had to be rescued by the coastguard after having a BBQ there until after we had visited the island) so we didnt loiter long. 

Flash is also feeling cold these days, and he was rather thankful of the open fire we found at the nearby dog-friendly pub. Missy conceded defeat and allowed him the prime spot, although it meant she could loiter beneath the table, so I think I'll call it a draw!

In other news, our sneak approach to Christmas seems to be working. We haven't had any anxiety problems yet and Missy has been quite chilled out. And here is a picture of her with the very special VIP we met the other weekend! (apologies for the cropping!)

How many pups get to meet santa?

Saturday, 25 November 2017

A wintry day

Well, we've had our first snowfall of the year and the nights are officially drawing in, so in my books, winter has arrived. Its not all gloom and doom, we have an action plan in place to try and help Missy get over her Christmas phobia and December is pretty much full up already with plans to see people and spend time with one another.

We managed a lovely winter walk up and around Cockleroy today. It was surprisingly busy around Beecraigs, but we had the hill to ourselves for the most part. The wind was bitter though! I thought I was going to get blown away and Missy just showed off and trotted around us happily. She loves the snow, all the scents sit fresh on top of it and, thankfully, we only lost sight of her the once. She came back to us a minute later looking mighty pleased with herself and out of breath, so she had fun!

In other news, our plecs have had babies again - slightly later than last year! We spotted the eggs straight away and got them into a nursery tank this time, so no need to try and stress out fishing tiny babies from the big tank. Its been tremendous fun watching them grow up from eggs, to larvae, to fry and now proper juvenile fish. We hadnt expected so many to survive, but out of the whole clutch we've only lost half a dozen, so out best estimate of 70-100 fish still stands. I already have a shop lined up to take them off us once they get a little bigger, so its all ok, although I am watching out in the main tank in case we get another cluster of eggs!

I'll leave you with the development photos of the babies and aim to be back soon - I've got some fun sewing projects on the go that I'm looking forward to sharing, and if all goes well, Missy is meeting someone special tomorrow!

Saturday, 11 November 2017

Castle Campbell and Gardens

Well, Autumn is well and truly underway and we've officially moved to the 'off-season' part of the year for interesting days out. CastleCampbell has been on the to-do list for a while now as its the site that the Historic Scotland app recommends for taking your dogs.

And we were not disappointed. We parked at the 'low' car park and took the walkway up to the castle - we were told it should take an hour to do the walk, but even with my constant stopping to try and get another waterfall photo, we managed it in half that. It was good or Missy to get off the lead before we did the castle as we had left quite early and therefore she'd only had a very short walk to begin her day.
As with most castles of the central belt, this one was a symbol of wealth and power and had never really seen any kind of attack barring one where Royalist rebels tried to burn it to the ground over two days. Originally known as Castle Gloom (derived from the Gaelic meaning chasm) it is situated at the top if a hill and surrounded by gullies and waterfalls. There is enough still standing that you don't feel cheated out of a castle, but it's certainly one of the smaller sites.
The views from the tower were stunning, and as always we did the kids quiz. No sticker this time for the hubby, even though we got them all right! The 'gardens' is also a 3 tiered garden with lots of benches - inside the tower there is even a sort of picnic room, so it's definitely one of the best equipped castles I've seen in regards to providing space to sit and eat.

There was plenty of dogs about as well, which is always nice, and Missy showed off her spiral staircase skills to her new canine friends. By that time it was getting cold and the light was beginning to fade (the nights are certainly drawing in quickly) and we took the longer route back down to the car park and enjoyed a stunning view of the castle. Don't let the length of the post fool you - we had a wonderful time and are already planning on taking the in-laws when they next visit!

Wednesday, 1 November 2017

Happy Halloween!

Well, a belated one!

This Halloween as been unusually busy for me - the last few years have fallen flat with everyone too busy to do anything, and then this year I got several invites, including a doggy parade in Manchester (next year, I have to go next year!) and a puppy disco in Glasgow. Owing to the fact that I was working, I couldn't go to any of them except for a family party.

So this years party all started as my tweenage niece wanted to dress as Pusheen for Halloween. She is savvy enough to know that the costumes available are massively overpriced and that her aunty (ie me) is completely gullible and happy to take on a challenge.

The Pusheen 'rug'
And then my nephew jumped on the bandwagon! He wanted to go as Owen from Jurassic World, only he couldn't get a waistcoat that was just right. None had pockets. Or they were black and not brown. Eyelashes fluttered and:

Well, I very well couldn't let the kids have the best costumes and not make an effort myself! So I followed on from our current pokemon phase and made Missy a Houndour outfit. The hubby and I went as Ash and Misty to compliment Missys outfit (yes, I had chosen hers before ours!) So I'll leave with the comment that we had a great night. I had brought Just Dance on the Switch and we just spent the night dancing away - although I am slightly concerned that my nephew dances better than my niece!

No pokemon were harmed during the photoshoot!
What kind of biscuits do Pokemon get?

Wednesday, 25 October 2017

A long delayed post

So...its been a busy month! We've been to Alton Towers (via Aberdeen) and then it was Copenhagen and after that its just been life getting in the way of just sitting down and getting on with things.

No Flash, look the other way!
I always try and sneak in an off-season break and this year we did Alton Towers. We were long overdue taking my brother-in-law on holiday and, as we all enjoy theme parks, we decided it was a safe option and would be easy.
Easy it wasn't. Manchester based Aunt and Uncle pulled out of dog sitting last minute. Dog boarding was fully booked. Couldn't find a kennels at short notice that wasn't just a row of cages. In laws were working so couldn't come to us, so to Aberdeen we had to go.
It was a fleeting up, then down, then down some more before a long haul up again which made what was meant to be a pretty chilled out week utterly manic.
But we all had fun. With it being off season we literally walked straight onto every ride - the longest wait we had was for the monorail to the car park at the end of the day!

Back to work for a week and then off again taking my mum on a girls holiday to Copenhagen. I wont go into too many details, but the mermaid was larger than I had been left to believe (everyone had said she was very small, but she's life sized, which is pretty much what I had originally expected!) and the people are super helpful and friendly.
I had a really nice time, but I've come to realise that my mother and I have different ideas on what constitutes a city-break holiday. For me that's eating in all the local bakeries as I walk aimlessly enjoying the sights and wondering through all the museums attempting to soak up every drop of history available and, if there's time, squeezing in the toy shops. For my mother, its standing in front of the buildings and having her photo taken. Next time, I think we'll do a proper guided tour someplace so we get to see lots, but aren't really hanging around.
Despite that, there were plenty of highlights - the canal boat tour, the mermaid and the Churchill Park and fort were all excellent. We even saw a wedding at the Fort which was just beautiful. With autumn well and truly in, the colours of the city were utterly splendid.

And then I've had my dad visit for a few days! And I've been busy with Halloween preparations, but that's all for another post!

Apologies for the brevity of the post, got things to make and do!

Monday, 18 September 2017

Edinburgh Kiltwalk 2017

So, this was probably my craziest notion for the year. I've always had running a marathon on my bucket list but, after being diagnosed with arthritis a few years ago and realising that I just cant physically run any kind of distance anymore, I had to shelve the idea. It was resurrected again in a different form when the Edinburgh Dog and Cat Home were looking for volunteers to join the Kiltwalk and and walk a marathon instead. That, I felt, I could actually achieve without doing myself a permanent injury.
So, back in April we started training and took the ninja sunburn to heart with vows that on the proper walk we'd pack sunscreen and...that was it. This year has been ridiculously busy and, in the free time we've had, we simply haven't had the right weather, the time or the inclination to go out and walk 20 miles. In effect, yesterday, we went into that walk with absolutely no training. 
The atmosphere was great. The whole event was superbly well organised from the moment we set foot (and paw) into Murrayfield Stadium (a novelty for Missy and usually its strictly no dogs) to when we crossed that same line 26 miles and 9 hours later. We originally started the walk with a very good friend as well who had managed more training than us, but felt significantly under prepared. The first handful of miles was an absolute breeze, and 8 miles in as we reached Cramond my faith in humanity was restored when a passerby with a lovely golden coloured springer spaniel gave us £10 towards our fundraising.
Halfway through the walk, we passed Seafield (and, ironically, the Edinburgh Dog and Cat home) and had lunch at Portebello. We were all given soup and rolls which was just right before we set off on our merry way again, pausing on the promenade to have some ice cream cones as well. We got lucky, there is a dachshund club in Edinburgh and they do big get togethers, and it looks like we bumped into one - there was literally dachshunds everywhere. I have a soft spot for the breed so it was great fun watching Missy running about with them.
19 miles in and we hit a snag. Our friend had really begun to struggle after lunch and, as she has health problems relating to her hips, she had to bow out at Holyrood. The staff were terrific with us. We reached the big pit stop and explained that she couldn't go any further and they simply popped her into a little shuttle bus and took her back to Murrayfield so that she could still collect her medal and enjoy the entertainment there. I felt really bad for her, but at the same time, 19 miles is a phenomenal achievement. By that point we had been walking for about 7 hours which is an impressive feat in itself, and she's keen to give it a go next year and beat the 19 miles.
The last seven miles we just pushed through. We had to go through town itself and, speaking with other walkers who agreed, that was the worst part. It was busy with crowds, we had to keep stopping and starting to cross roads and then it was up and down some very steep hills. Missy was fine. She had found other dogs to play with and was on the hunt for squirrels. Whilst I had started to ache earlier, it was the last two miles that I struggled with. That was where it was one foot in front of the other and I just pushed.
Missy spent it chasing bunnies.
It was a relief to see Murrayfield. We crossed the finish line and all three of us got medals (I dont think Missy was meant to get one, but she put on the charm and managed to coerce the girl handing them out into sharing). We had another meal at this point, I got the mac and cheese and the hubby a burger whilst Missy had a rather large dinner. It was a brilliant day and, despite the stiffness I'm suffering today, was absolutely worth every single step. 
It was all for a good cause, the dog and cat home is where we adopted Missy from, and my childhood dog, Cindy, was from there as well. I made the joke a few times that they have provided me with a sibling and a child, and actually, its not far off. If the money we raised goes to giving another family the joy either Missy or Cindy brought to my life, then I'd happily do it all again.
And actually, although at the moment its just casual banter, I think we will do it all again. The hubby has even suggested doing all four of the kiltwalks next year (Glasgow, Edinburgh, Dundee and Aberdeen). I'll give it a few weeks before we commit to anything that extreme, but expect to see at least one of these next year.

Monday, 11 September 2017

Queensferry Crossing

Well, if you live anywhere in Scotland, I'm sure you will ave heard all about it, but the new bridge over the Forth estuary has opened after five years in the making.
Now, I'm not really into buildings or structures, but even I have to confess that's a pretty bridge! And the reason its made its way onto a post is that the hubby and I won ballot tickets to be two of the 50,000 people who were getting to walk across the bridge for a limited, one time only, weekend. The new crossing is not open to pedestrians, so it really was a one-off occasion.
No dogs were allowed, unfortunately, so Missy had to stay at her grannies whilst we crossed, but it was a wonderful day. The atmosphere was great, it was really well organised, everyone was super friendly and the weather held out and it stayed dry. We took far longer than the recommended hour, but the hubby is an engineer by trade, so we constantly had to stop to look at an access hatch. Or a gate. Or to ask someone why the lights were shaped like that, and why did they only light up the front and end of the bridge and not the middle. Oh, and get a picture of that weird little door thingy...
It all adds to the greatness of the day!
Just a short one today, till next time!

Sunday, 3 September 2017

Siege on the Forth

Just a quick post today before I go walking over the Queensferry Crossing!

Yesterday (and today) was the annual Siege on the Forth event held at Blackness Castle and, as hubby was working, Missy, a good friend and myself decided to go and enjoy the surprisingly nice weather and watch the reenactments. Having done the jousting at Linlithgow, I had a rough idea of what would be going on and I wasn't disappointed!

In addition to all the medieval zone, they had the Covenants and the Napoleonic zones which were very interesting (after watching musket balls being made, we spent quite a long time cackling away with a witch (I mean, a herbologist). The main arena held a fashion show (which was really a big brawl) and then demonstrations of the military tactics through the ages and a very sort reenactment of the siege of 1651. They also had a marquee set up with all the children's stuff like soap carving, trebuchet making and a medieval science talk that was really about the engineering tricks they came up with in order to build castles. 

Missy was incredibly well behaved and the bangs for the most part didn't bother her. She did get a fright when the petard went off, but truth be told, we all did. So we went for a walk about the castle until everyone's nerves had settled down and then avoided the worst of the canon fire afterwards. The weather was spectacular and the atmosphere was absolutely brilliant as everyone was having a really nice time. 

Expect a post soon about the crossing, until then, cheerio!

Sunday, 27 August 2017

Kildrummy, Glenbuchat and Corgarff Castles

We were visiting the out-laws this week as a continuation of the birthdays (the hubby and I have our birthdays 6 days apart). It was just a quick visit up and down again due to other commitments, but it's always nice to go away where you don't feel obliged to get on with jobs. With storms hitting Northern Ireland, we had a nice lazy day where it really just rained and rained. Poor Missy fell into a puddle up to her neck and, after that, she was rather indignant about the whole being-out-in-the-rain malarkey and was quite happy roasting herself by the wood burning stove.
A very old Flash
Missy and her Uncle Flash get along very well, although it was quite upsetting to realise that, now 12, Flash is really starting to get quite old and isn't able to keep up anymore with her. Whilst he's been slowing down for some time, this is the first visit we've had were he's decided that he won't even try to follow her through the woods.
We had already decided that we may as well take advantage of the more northerly location and get a few of the castles in the Aberdeen area ticked off the list. Bearing in mind that Flash was struggling a bit now, we decided to keep the day simple and avoid anything with too much in the way of spiral staircases.
The first castle we managed was Kildrummy. Despite the rain of the previous day, the weather was glorious, and I suspect one of the last true days of summer we'll have this year. The sun and the warm weather appealed to both dogs as they explored the ruins quite happily. Described as the 'noblest of northern castles', I must confess, I would have loved to have seen this castle standing. As it is, it's a complete ruin - parts of the towers remain, but there's no stairs remaining and it offers only hints of its once grand past. My favourite part of the castle was the tower remains, although watching both dogs peer down the towers latrine was a good comedy moment!
Next on the hit-list was Corgarff Castle which is a bit of a misnomer! This one was a pleasant surprise for us as it is a completely intact medieval tower house and was used by both Jacobites and redcoats. Most of the central belt revolves around Mary Queen of Scots, so it was really refreshing to see a different bit of Scottish history and warfare. We stopped for a terribly British picnic of tea and sandwiches before going inside to explore. Dogs weren't allowed inside this bizarre little building that stood bleakly on its own on the hillside, so we took turns walking them around the star shaped outer wall whilst the others went inside and explored the twisting allegiances this building held. One of the particuarly nice things about this building is that some of the rooms have been recreated, including the guards quarters and you can also choose your allegiance by means of dress up!

As a small hat trick, we managed to bag one last castle on the way back. Glenbuchat is currently closed because of renovation work, but we managed a small walk around the building. By this time both the dogs were tired and the weather had begun to turn, so we called it quits and went back for a well deserved cup of tea with both dogs snoring soundly away.

Just a short post today!

Friday, 25 August 2017

Caerlaverock Castle and Crawick Multiverse

Monday was my birthday and I decided that what I wanted to do was continue on our quest to get all the Historic Scotland castles ticked off our list and go for a nice day trip with Missy and just not make a bid deal of things.

I've really fancied Caerlaverock Castle since I'd first seen it in the guide book. A bizarre triangular shaped medieval castle that had undergone siege and battle, complete with towers and a real moat, it ticked all the boxes. We hadnt done this one before as, located in Dumfries with a drive time of two hours, it was definitely a day trip.

And it did not disappoint! The weather held fair and the black murky moat contrasted beautifully with the red sandstone, making this castle dominate the local scenery. I'd been told the castle fitted into the 'fairytale' description and, looking about the courtyard and the beautifully carved fireplaces, I was forced to agree.

We stopped for a homemade bento (the book and containers an early birthday gift) and looked out through the ruined curtain wall, over the boat and into the woodland beyond. The foundations of the original castle are still visible some 200m away and we enjoyed a nice stroll around there. The original castle was abandoned as it was too close to the sea and started to sink (the original owners apparently really wanted a moat!)

To justify the drive back, we visit a little gem called the Crawick Multiverse which is an outdoor art installation inspired by the galaxy and our connection to it. Whilst there, we walked past comet collisions, through the Milky-way and climbed up the Andromeda galaxy (where Missy decided to pee on it).

The area is huge and we could easily have spent far more than the two and half hours we were there. Its beautifully designed and, as it so quiet, we allowed Missy off the lead and she bumbled along beside us completely missing the point of her continued education! The weather had begun to turn though so we made our way back to the car and got in just as the heavens opened.

Missy standing atop the centre of the Earth
All in all, I couldn't have asked for a nicer day.